Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 08:30 pm PT (11:30 pm ET)
Hands on with Apple's iPad (with videos and photos)
There are a few things some observers expected that didn't turn up in the final design. The most obvious is a lack of support for any providers other than AT&T in the US or GSM/UMTS providers overseas. There's no CDMA version for Verizon Wireless, and it doesn't support T-Mobile's 3G frequencies (although it apparently could be activated on T-Mobile's slow GSM network, but that might not be cost effective).
The new machine uses microSIM cards and is only sold completely unlocked, with no contact subsidies and complete home activation. There's also a WiFi-only version that starts the price at just $499, much less than anyone imagined.
There are no cameras, killing any hopes that it would be used as a video conferencing device. However, most people don't like to be on camera, which is why we never had a clamoring market for videophones despite having had the technology for decades. And while its very handy to snap pics with your smartphone, it makes less sense to expect to take pictures with a tablet-sized device.
There's no provision for running multiple third party apps at once, outside of the bundled Apple apps that can work in the background, such as iPod. That, some have speculated, may be a feature of iPhone 4.0 this summer. The iPad was shown running iPhone 3.2 software.
There's currently no demonstrated way to attach the iPad to a Mac to use it as a multitouch input device, although this may be possible with third party software; if nothing else, developers could use network commands to relay touch gestures to a desktop app.
More hardware surprises
There are two docks designed for the iPad: one is a simple stand to allow recharging while playing videos or touching the screen at a near vertical position for $29, and a second dock option offers an integrated physical keyboard for $69.
The keys are nearly identical to Apple's other keyboards, although it adds a home button, a search button, a lock button, and a key to bring up the virtual keyboard on screen so you can type any foreign or special characters (or say, bring up a number pad or the Chinese touch input) without hitting some special chord sequence of keys. It will also be possible to use the iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard, according to Apple reps in the hands-on area. Hopefully that feature will also make it into the iPhone and iPod touch.
With its HD-resolution display and Keynote, the iPad begs for video output. You can use the existing iPhone video output cables to deliver component or composite video, but you can also now use an iPad-specific cable to attach it to a VGA projector (or other display) at its native 1024x768 resolution. And while your presentation progresses, you can not only control it, but also highlight using a virtual laser pointer you move with your finger. You can also paint on the screen John Madden style to emphasize things as you speak. This will sell iPads to every conference room in America.
In addition to the VGA dongle (sold separately), there's also a USB and SD card reader adapter package for $29 that makes it easy to upload photos from your digital camera, although there wasn't any demonstration of the devices in use.
A special neoprene-like case protects the iPad like a standard book cover, but also reverses into a triangle to convert the tablet into either a freestanding TV orientation, or lays down to become a full screen mini-laptop. The case is soft but makes the device seem ruggedized, although you probably still won't want to drop it.
There's a mic and a headphone jack (it's not clear if it also supports mic-integrated headphones), so there's at least the potential for VoIP applications over WiFi. There wasn't a bundled version of the Voice Memos app on the prototype models, nor a version of the iPhone's Voice Command, but there's no reason either couldn't be added by Apple by the time it ships.
The iPad is even designed to do something when it's doing nothing. With the device at its unlock screen, there's a button to start a slideshow configured to your preferences within Settings (below). This turns the thing into a nice animated slideshow picture frame of your selected photo album as it recharges.
On page 2 of 3: Revolutionary evolution, a tough act to follow.
On Topic: Future Hardware
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